Microfinance institutions (MFIs) are a natural ally for telecommunication companies who want to penetrate into the rural areas. In a latest example, leading microfinance company Madura Micro Finance Ltd has partnered with Vodafone to launch Madura Mobile Micro Markets (M4 initiative), which is an initiative to provide mobile phones and connectivity to its members in around 3,000 villages across Tamil Nadu. The company has about 400,000 borrowers.
Earlier, India's largest MFI, SKS Microfinance, had tied up with Nokia for handsets and Airtel for SIM cards for selling it to its members on a finance. Besides, SKS had also become a channel for selling fast moving consumer goods.
The company also said that it has partnered with Nokia for handsets, which would be provided to its members in five easy installments, without charging any interest rates.
The plan is also to push information through mobile which are relevant for the rural population. According to a company statement, the M4 initiative will leverage mobile for providing the rural folks with health and business tips through voice alerts.
Madura Microfinance, which owes its legacy to the erstwhile Bank of Madura (it merged with ICICI Bank in 2000), was founded in 2005, and received its NBFC licence from Reserve Bank of India to provide microlending services in 2006. The company had its origins from the self help groups set up by Bank of Madurai in 1995. It's organising Madura Carnival to celebrate the 15 years of operations.
Sunder Thiyagarajan, head of Madura Micro Markets, said, "We have partnered with a mobile operator and mobile phone manufacturers for the Madura Carnival. Each member will be provided with a handset, which can be purchased with an interest-free loan along with a pre-paid calling plan. Calls will be priced at nominal rates, so that mass mobile usage remains affordable."